It’s a shocking question from one of the country’s main news outlets: Is the Obama White House replacing the traditional press with its own “state run” media machine?
According to ABC, it seems the answer might be “yes.” The news outlet points out “the White House Press Office now not only produces a website, blog, YouTube channel, Flickr photo stream, and Facebook and Twitter profiles, but also a mix of daily video programming, including live coverage of the president’s appearances and news-like shows that highlight his accomplishments.”
ABC’s story goes on to cite examples:
But while these innovative communications tools ostensibly offer greater transparency and openness, critics say they have come at a troublesome expense: less accountability of the administration by the independent, mainstream press.
Over the past few months, as White House cameras have been granted free reign behind the scenes, officials have blocked broadcast news outlets from events traditionally open to coverage and limited opportunities to publicly question the president himself.
Obama’s recent signing of the historic New START treaty with Russia and his post-State of the Union cabinet meeting, for example, were both closed to reporters in a break with tradition. And during a recent question and answer session with the president and visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the White House imposed an unusual limit of just one question each from the U.S. and Canadian press corps.
“The administration has narrowed access by the mainstream media to an unprecedented extent,” says veteran ABC News White House correspondent Ann Compton, who has covered seven administrations. “Access here has shriveled.”
“They’re opening the door to kicking the press out of historic events, and opening the door to having a very filtered format for which they give the American public information that doesn’t have any criticism allowed,” University of Minnesota journalism professor and political communication analyst Heather LaMarre told ABC.
David Perlmutter, director of the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication, wonders how the administration’s media strategy might have been viewed in years past: “If Nixon had announced he was going to start the ‘Nixon channel’ and said they were only going to put up stuff he approved of, people would have said, ‘Oh my God, this is like Communist Russian state media.'”
The diminishing press access is curious considering the president was hailed during his presidential campaign as a friend of the media. But in the age of increasingly direct access, it may be that the president sees the press as having already served its purpose.